National Museums in Romania

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Publicerad: 2011-09-30


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


The idea of a Romanian National Museum is contemporary to the creation of the Romanian national state and the birth of Romanian museology; yet there are several museums that made claims on representing the Romanian nation at different moments in its history; with no single museum being recognized as ‘the’ national museum. Four major museums are included in this report insofar as they make or made strong statements on the national issue throughout the last two centuries: the National History Museum of Romania; the Romanian Peasant National Museum (with its predecessor the Carol I National Museum); the disappeared History Museum of the Romanian Communist Party and the recent Sighet Memorial-Museum to the Victims of Communism and to the Resistance.

The report establishes a tentative time frame for the content and meaning of ‘national museum’ in different moments of time over the last two centuries. Each of the chosen museums more or less exemplifies these tendencies in exhibiting the national idea. Starting with the national “cabinet of curiosities“ of the nineteenth century; the report points to the moment of change towards the ethnographical national museum and exhibiting national folk art in the first half of the twentieth century. The Communist takeover is a major fracture in museum history; as the ‘national’ tag is replaced with the ‘central’. The report analyzes the strong centralisation of Romanian museums during Communism; and the surprising return of nationalism in museums of the 1970s and 1980s. Post-Communist museums are characterized by the dilemmas of establishing an anticommunist national identity and the unexpected success of the first Romanian private (civil society) museum.

Special attention is given to the history of one building; designed to be ‘The’ Romanian National Museum; finally hosting several museums whose history is thus intertwined. This report sheds light not only on the stories museums display but also the hidden stories behind exhibiting and collecting; the personalities that shaped their identity; their silences; traumas and unsolved dilemmas.


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